Unschooling: Repaying a Debt of Gratitude

By , September 7, 2011

In August, I received a call from the Superintendent of the Haines Borough School District (HBSD). The Alaska Department of Education (AKDOE) was evaluating average yearly progress (AYP) for schools around the state for No Child Left Behind, and they had a problem with Aly’s enrollment status.

When we began unschooling Aly on the homestead, we did so under the umbrella of the Haines High School Correspondence Program. We listed Aly’s educational goals each semester, and evaluated her progress in meeting them. The school awarded credit, and offered a generous stipend for educational materials. In return, the school counted Aly as a portion of one student toward enrollment goals. We liked the arrangement, and it worked well until AKDOE tightened some of the rules. HBSD changed the arrangement to ensure they remained in compliance, which resulted in less freedom for Aly, more reporting, and more work for the HBSD faculty. After careful consideration we withdrew Aly from HBSD and continued her education alone, as allowed by state law.

Part of our deliberation included avoiding the possibility that Aly might be counted as a drop out, which would hurt the school’s AYP. The Superintendent called because AKDOE threatened to do just that. Because she appears on the rolls for the first two years of high school, but did not receive a diploma from HBSD, she counted as a drop out, a failure on the part of the local school district.

If you are one of the many homeschooling advocates who read this blog, you may be wondering, “who cares?” How can it matter to a homeschooler if public schools are failing? Isn’t an awareness of that implicit in one’s decision to homeschool?

We care. We rushed to support the school in this matter for several reasons.

First of all, it’s the principle. Communities desperately need good schools. Poor schools must be improved, and good schools must be supported and rewarded. Public education supports a free society. An educated population is more productive, safer, and happier. Supporting public education improves the chances that all the jobs necessary to maintain our society are filled. Even a less than adequate education is better than no education at all.

Haines has excellent schools, offering low teacher/student ratios, beautiful new facilities, and, most importantly, intelligent, dedicated faculty and staff. Homeschooling worked better for us, but if Aly had attended high school in town, we would not have been unhappy.

I feel passionately about this, and I had a lot to say about it. Next time I’ll tell you what we did to help our local school.

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